Sam Adams shivered slightly as he stood on the doorstep of number 19, Fanshawe Way. He hadn't been outside long, if he had intended to spend any length of time outdoors he would have brought a coat, but apparently the occupants weren't answering.
Finally, the door swung open to reveal Luke Winsor looking vaguely irritable. Sam raised his eyebrows.
"I'm going to be sharing my room all holiday," Luke complained as he let Sam in, "Jack is coming and apparently they won't shell out to put him in a hotel. I don't want to have to share!"
Sam resisted the urge to smirk knowingly. Jack was Luke's cousin and they actually got on exceptionally well, when Jack got there, Luke would forget his annoyance and just enjoy hanging out with him. The only fault Jack had was the way he stole Luke from Sam. Family came first, even before best friends, and Sam didn't begrudge Luke that, but it got on his nerves that despite being 'practically family' he would found himself pushed aside the moment Jack arrived because according to Luke, 'Jack would probably feel a bit awkward hanging out with his little cousin's friends.'
He sat down in the living room that was practically his own and relaxed. He liked Luke's house. It was always quiet. He loved his family but sometimes having three siblings in the house could get on his nerves.
Luke sat down next to him and turned the TV on and they both settled down to watch whatever was showing on '4Movies,' laughing at the jokes and commenting on the interesting bits. They were practically brothers and they didn't need to be doing stuff to hang out, and if Jack was coming around then Sam wanted to make the most of his time with Luke before the holiday.
Jack arrived on the Tuesday before they actually broke up for Christmas and by the Friday, Sam was already sick of it. Luke had ditched him after school Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; the first time he'd been ditched for more than two nights in a row since they were twelve. He pulled his utterly pathetic jacket around him and, this time, didn't even bother going to their usual meeting spot. He refused to wait around in the cold for the fourth night in a row, especially when Luke had made no effort to apologise for his actions on the previous three nights. He was halfway down the road outside of school when he heard the yelling.
"SAM! SAM! WAIT UP! WHERE ARE YOU GOING?" Luke ran over to him, "What the heck man? You're having dinner at my place, it's a Friday, you always do."
Sam bit back a sarcastic comment of 'You always walk home with me – oh yeah, not anymore!' and nodded.
"And you'll get to see Jack! You didn't get to see him when he visited last time did you because you were away so this'll be doubly good for you. We've been having a bomb-diggity time! He's awesome on the X-box."
And there he went again. Extolling the virtues of Jack. Like Sam actually cared. Luke didn't stop until they were walking into his house. Then Sam saw Jack.
He scowled. Great – so not only was Jack going to take all of Luke's time up during the holiday, he was also hot. However, Sam had more than enough self-restraint to avoid losing his head over something as trivial as that.
Except maybe for a few seconds. Because he was a sixteen year old guy and he couldn't deny that Jack was attractive, around his height, perhaps just the tiniest (most irksome) bit taller, with dark brown hair and blue eyes and just the tiniest hint of a genuine tan. A little poster-boy like but decidedly gorgeous. Then he shut the shallow part of his brain off and reminded himself that Jack was Luke's 'annoying' older cousin and therefore not remotely worth checking out.
Luke rolled his eyes. "C'mon Jack, you must remember Sam. You've met him nearly every time you've visited except for the last time."
Jack shrugged his shoulders. "Can't say I recognise him…"
Sam tried very hard not to be offended. His appearance had changed somewhat in the last year – he'd had his hair cut from his shoulders to his ears and started wearing glasses instead of contacts. He'd also finally gotten his braces off.
Yes. It was feasible that Jack really didn't recognise him. Well that was unusual.
"He's here for dinner – if you don't mind…"
Sam sighed, Luke's fixation with making Jack happy was a bit desperate really, it was highly unlikely that the eighteen year old would suddenly decide to hate Luke just because he didn't pander to Jack's every whim.
Surprisingly, Jack seemed equally startled by Luke's implications that he would send Sam away should the older teen request it, "Why would I care? If it's cool with your parents it's cool with me."
Sam resisted the urge to slam his head into the nearest wall. He didn't consider himself an uptight person but he was a great fan of proper English. He would accept some slang, he'd be a social-leper if he didn't, but Luke's tendency to adopt every single phrase that he came across grew wearing. Unfortunately, he'd not known about that trait when he'd befriended the boy.
The dinner had been surprisingly less awkward then he'd worried. It was very mush in the same style it always was except for the fact Jack occasionally added things to the discussion.
If it weren't for the fact that Luke was still acting like he was invisible he could almost forgive Jack for existing. However, Luke was his best friend and if he couldn't blame the problem then he would have to blame its cause, which meant that Jack was still going to have to endure his wrath. He wasn't a particularly wrathful person but he could still act somewhat cool towards the guy who was hogging all of his best friend's time. Even if said guy was almost certainly not doing it on purpose.
If he was honest, he felt the tiniest bit cruel for blaming Jack. Luke was being a prat, not the older teen.
But he was Luke's best friend and so that meant if he had to be mad at somebody it would have to be Jack. Even though Jack was possibly nicer than Luke was during the meal, he still felt glad when the food was finished and Jack went to watch the TV while he and Luke went upstairs to play on the X-box. He felt even more vindictive when Luke mentioned hanging out the next day – it was immature but he couldn't help feel like he'd gotten one up on Jack, even if the competition was decidedly one-sided.
But the pride feeling faded to nothing the next day when Jack was once again a part of his time with Luke, still unwittingly stealing his best friend away, and being so agonisingly nice about it.
He was never very good at hating people.
That was why when Luke had to leave to help his mother with the food Sam had found himself unable to continue to stay icy towards Jack. Not when Jack smiled at him in such an accepting way. Luke thought Sam would be a problem to Jack. Sam thought Jack was pulling Luke away from him. But Jack really did seem to be perfectly willing to be friendly with Sam despite Luke's insistence that he most definitely didn't have to.
For a fleeting moment, Sam wondered if Luke was trying to make Jack ask Sam to leave.
"Wanna play on the X-box? Most of Luke's games are kinda lame but it's something to do," Jack asked, only seconds after Luke has left.
Sam couldn't help but laugh. "Don't let him hear you say that – he loves those games."
"Oh c'mon – they're rubbish! Even he can't like them!"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Luke has rubbish taste – did you know he hates the colour green?"
Sam rolled his eyes. "It's a bit weird but that doesn't mean he has rubbish taste all the time."
"But green is amazing! Like the colour on your jumper – it's a cold colour so it's not overbearing but it has enough tones to seem warm. It's festive too."
Sam raised his eyebrows but Jack looked unfazed. "I know a lot about colours – I do art. What's your name again?"
Sam rolled his eyes, "It's Sam. Didn't Luke tell you that yesterday?"
Jack shrugged, "He said I'd met you before but I can't remember you."
"Well I look different now," Sam muttered, resisting the urge to use the word better for fear of sounding obnoxious.
"I suppose I'll have to take your word for it. Now, gaming!"
Sam knew for certain then that he wouldn't be able to hold Luke's somewhat ridiculous behaviour against Jack. He grabbed one of the controllers and settled into to have fun. If Jack wasn't Luke's cousin he would probably have a lot of friend potential.
Sam really didn't know why anybody would schedule a fair in winter. Not in a small town like theirs. That sort of thing was really only reasonable in big cities like London where there would be tourists who wanted some sort of winter wonderland set up. But one had come, it would be there for three whole days, from the twentieth to the twenty third which meant it would be almost impossible to avoid going because Luke thought fairs were just 'bomb-diggity.'
Sam had no patience for the crowds and the stench of onions that always filled the things. But on the twenty-second of December he found himself pulling his scarf a little tighter around his neck as he wandered through the crowds wondering exactly where Luke had rushed off to into his fit of sugar high excitement. Luke had been there for hours with Jack but Sam had been unwilling to subject himself to that much time. Luke would have only used it as an opportunity to get him to waste money on over-priced fairground attractions or food.
But of course Luke was just a little foolish like that. Why else would he have expected Sam to be able to actually follow him through the hoards of hyperactive children and faux-stylish teens?
"Has he run off from you too?"
Jack was suddenly right behind him, head on his shoulder and breathing on his ear, "He's utterly lost his mind I think. We should probably look for him."
"Y-yeah," Sam replied, baffled by the sudden appearance of a stammer in his voice, "Any ideas where to start?"
Jack shrugged. "You're his best friend."
"That doesn't mean I understand his insanity. You share some of his genetics."
Jack grinned, "Not the ones that make him a total fruit-loop. I say we just keep our eyes peeled for him."
The rational part of Sam's brain told him that Jack's method was a completely inefficient way of searching for Luke, but the slightly less put-upon part reasoned that really it wasn't even like he had any responsibility to look after his mousy haired idiot of a best friend. He shrugged and followed Jack through the crowds, occasionally stopping to look at the various stalls but mostly just walking. At one stage, Sam had found himself with a strange impulse to grab Jack's hand but he brushed it off, losing himself in an easy conversation, with dry jokes and bright smiles. It really was a shame Jack was Luke's cousin, Sam decided, because if he hadn't been Sam might have considered the idea of having two best friends.
"I've got an idea! If we go on the Ferris wheel we'll be able to see the whole fair – we'll definitely spot Luke that way," Jack looked blindingly enthusiastic about the idea so Sam sighed and followed him. He hadn't realised they were in such a desperate hurry to find the hyperactive sixteen year old. He also didn't think the idea would work, on the Ferris Wheel they'd be far too high up to make out any individual people, let alone be able to track them down afterwards. He let himself be led into the line anyway, forking over three pounds at the booth and sliding into the rickety seat.
The 'safety rail' was clipped in place, still leaving a gap large enough that he could easily slide out from under it, and the wheel jerked into motion. He suddenly felt quite uncomfortable, Jack chattered on oblivious. "I really like your scarf – can I nick it off you?"
Sam glanced down at his scarf, it was green, he remembered from the other day that Jack had declared his love for the colour. He unwrapped it from around his neck and tossed it over.
Jack looked startled, "You can keep it if you want. I mean it's yours…"
Sam shrugged, removing his scarf had caused the breeze to suddenly attack his neck, but it had also relieved a feeling of strangulation that he was glad to be without as the squeaking and strained wheel raised them into the night sky.
"I have others," he remarked, waving his hand dismissively and attributing the lurching feeling in his stomach to their ever-increasing height rather than to Jack's radiant smile.
"I think green is generally a good colour for you but only when it complements your skin rather than being your skin tone, are you okay?"
Sam nodded, trying to ignore the way the lights on the ground were still falling away slowly. "This thing is just a bit…"
Jack raised his eyebrows, "Are you scared of heights? You didn't have to come on."
"I'm not stupid," Sam muttered, "I'm normally okay. It's just that now we're on it, well, this thing is a bit fragile feeling, if you know what I mean."
Jack shrugged, "I thought the whole appeal of fairs was that they aren't grounded. They're a bit wild and all that."
"Yeah if you like that sort of thing," Sam scoffed, "Please remember that I didn't come for the 'wild' experience, I came because Luke asked me to and he's too good of a mate to bother debating something as small as this."
Jack laughed and slung his arm around Sam's shoulders. "How about I protect you from all the wildebeests and scary things then?"
"I don't think there are any wildebeests here, are you thinking about wild beasts?"
"Yeah them things," Jack gave a nonchalant shrug, "Practically the same thing."
"The wildest things you'll find around here are the squirrels – and they most certainly aren't the same as wildebeests."
"Yeah well we're going down now," Jack remarked, "so we'll be able to check it out."
For some reason Sam's brain decided to provide a completely alternate meaning for going down, complete with mental images, so he just nodded, totally unable to look Jack in the eyes.
He had no idea where that thought had come from. Although, and he would never acknowledge it, it was a mildly appealing thought.
He would have been out of the seat the moment the Ferris Wheel came to a stop if it weren't for the fact that doing so would probably have placed him in Jack's lap, which would have been slightly uncomfortable considering the fact his brain seemed to have taken an inexplicable dive into the gutter.
"I say we screw off," Jack commented and Sam felt all of his blood rush away from his brain as he once again proved his ability to produce graphic mental pictures.
"What about Luke?"
Jack shrugged, "He was the one who wandered off. He can get home when he wants, he won't be foolish enough to wait around for us. I can always call him if he doesn't show up."
Sam frowned, puzzled, if Jack could call Luke then why hadn't he done it some time ago?
"Where are you staying?"
Jack rolled his eyes, "Are you going home or staying over with us?"
Sam mulled it over, "I dunno. I figure I'll walk home, save you and Luke from over-crowding."
"I don't mind close quarters," Jack said in a tone that was just a little too low for regular conversation, but then he snapped back to normal, "Do you live far? After all, it wouldn't do for you to freeze yourself now you've gifted me this excellent scarf."
Sam shook his head, "Not far." Only fifteen minutes walk and he did it nearly every day.
"See you then," Jack remarked, turning and beginning to walk away. For a moment, Sam stood still, before turning and walking the opposite direction.
There was no logical reason that he'd expected Jack to kiss him then.
No logical reason he'd be thinking about that at all.
It was a few days before he saw Luke again. He had repeatedly reminded himself that seeing Jack was just something that sometimes came with seeing Luke and not something he was looking forward to. It wasn't until three days after Christmas he went around. It turned out Luke wasn't there. He'd gone to the shops with his Dad for groceries, but he'd be back in less than an hour and so, as per form, Luke mother had invited him to come in and wait. He'd gone in and turned on Luke's x-box, sat down at the foot of the bed, and within a few minutes had settled down into thrashing Luke's various high scores on the disk that was in.
"Oh. I didn't know you were here."
Sam glanced up at the sound of Jack's voice and froze. The eighteen year old was stood in the doorway, dripping wet (presumably having just showered) and shirtless.
He jerked his head back towards the screen, fighting down an unnatural urge to blush, and shrugged. "Yeah, I came to hang out with Luke but he's not here."
"And you stuck around anyway?"
"Yeah," Sam tried to keep his tone from sounding too affronted, "Luke will be back sooner or later. It's not usually a bother."
He wasn't entirely sure if Jack had picked up on the implications Sam was trying to make about the older teens reaction to his presence as, instead of replying, or even clothing himself, Jack grabbed the spare X-ox control and added himself to the game. Sam wished he hadn't done, Jack's presence was highly off-putting.
"You suck at this game."
No, Sam thought irritably, I'm perfectly adequate at it when you aren't sitting there making a distraction of yourself.
He didn't say anything though, there was no really way he could phrase that though which would sound reasonable when said aloud.
Except that ten minutes later, Jack was making his seventeenth joke about Sam's newfound incompetence.
"Do you need to up the prescription on your glasses or something? Because you're playing like you can't even see the screen."
Sam scowled, it wasn't easy looking at the screen when he was within feet of thatbody, but he was also getting a little weary of the taunts. He grabbed on of Luke's discarded shirts and threw it at Jack.
Jack seemed taken aback. "What did you do that for?"
"Put it on."
"Why should I?"
"Because if I have to look at you much longer I'm going to end up crushing on you!"
There was silence. Jack's eyes had gone very wide and his mouth had dropped open to form a small 'o' of surprise. Sam couldn't help but feel the tiniest urge to laugh. At eighteen, Jack really shouldn't be so startled by such statements. Sam just sat back and waited for a reaction. There were a lot of things Jack could do in response to that statement and it was hard to predict which route he would choose. Oddly, now that he'd said it, Sam saw the lie behind the statement. He was not going to end up with a crush on Jack; he was simply going to develop a bigger crush on Jack. It didn't really bother him. Jack was entertaining and attractive and nice, if he hadn't have been Luke's cousin Sam would have been openly crushing on him from the get go, and Sam was not the sort of over emotional person who was going to get worked up about that sort of thing. If it was going to take a while for Jack to react, whether he was going to freak out with horror or dismiss the whole thing as a joke, then Sam could wait for that.
Admittedly, Jack's eventual reaction came as a bit of a shock. Wordlessly, the eighteen year old had dropped the control for the x-box leaned over and slammed Sam's head into the bed frame.
Despite the slight throb of pain in his skull from his collision with the metal frame, it was probably one of the best kisses Sam had ever had. Jack wasn't remotely shy and showed all the signs of being well practised in such areas, the only thing Sam could find to fault him on was the fact that Jack had knocked his glasses askew in his rush and the frames were now pressing into his face at a rather uncomfortable angle.
It felt nice though, nice enough that Sam was rendered unable to accurately estimate the quantity of time passes like that, with Jack's skin warm against his, a strong hand pressed into his shoulder, and only the mildest curiosity regarding how uncomfortable Jack's current twisted around and leant over position must be.
Finally, they separated.
"Days," Jack growled, "Over a week I've spent trying to figure out if you were interested or not and then you come right out and just say it!"
Sam shrugged, sliding his glasses back into place, "I hadn't realised…"
Jack rolled his eyes with the faintest of smirks, "I'm not all that surprised. Take your glasses off."
"No. My eyes look all beady without them and I squint."
Jack gave him an odd look. Sam was unfazed. "I like my glasses on my face where they belong."
Jack shrugged, "If you say so. What now?"
That, Sam felt, was a devastatingly uncreative response to the situation. "Well I didn't give you a Christmas present."
Jack looked confused, "Even if we're together now… we are, aren't we?" Sam nodded. "Right, we weren't together at Christmas so there was no need for us to by each other presents."
Sam rolled his eyes. "You're completely missing the point."
"What poi... mmph!"
Sam smirked into Jack's lips, ignoring the fact that he was halfway into the older teen's lap, he had a feeling that Jack could figure it out.